2020 for me is like a retry of 2019. I feel as though I gave it go with the colostomy bag but things did’t go quite to plan. In 2020, colostomy irrigation was introduced and after just a week it already feels like a game-changer.
Prior to irrigation I wasn’t getting on well with the colostomy bag. There was nothing major happening but lots of little things such as occasional pancaking, gas/noises, trying to decide what to do with a bag that’s filling up in the night and occasional leakages. All these things prompted my stoma nurse to recommend giving colostomy irrigation a try.
I’d never heard of it prior to her mentioning it but it sounded like something that would help alleviate the issues I was experiencing. As with anything new I was keen to perform research and as part of that I joined a colostomy irrigation Facebook group. I’m usually sceptical about Facebook support groups but when I shared my blog post with a number of questions the response were excellent and on the whole positive. This mirrored what the stoma nurse had told me about her experience with ostomates who had started irrigating.
The First Irrigation
Heading into my first irrigation I was quite anxious which was caused by feeling quite down at the time and also wondering if I was committing to something that I would quickly regret. Whilst there I was just going through the motions and I’m sure that contributed to not ‘enjoying*’ what was happening.
As the irrigation started and progressed, It felt like a huge shock to the system, especially as my body wasn’t used to going to the toilet or trying to get rid of such a large amount of water. I finished the session feeling quite unsure about whether I would be wanting to continue.
* Enjoying is a strange word to use for this situation but by enjoyment I mean the sensation of doing something that will improve you life for the 24 hours between now and the next irrigation.
Setting the Stage for Future Irrigations
After having the New Bum fitted I made the mistake of not reflecting on how things used to be so when I started to feel really low, I struggled to draw comparisons with how I used to feel during the height of a bad Crohn’s flare up. As I was apprehensive about irrigation, but was still going to give it a go, I wanted to make sure that I made an effort to remember just how things used to be and the issues I was experiencing with the colostomy bag.
So after the first irrigation I made a conscious effort to write down all the negative aspects of having the bag. I found this to be an incredibly important exercise and immediately my mindset had changed. Whereas I was apprehensive about committing to the irrigation process, I had suddenly started looking forward to it! Why? I’m not sure, but probably I was looking forward to reaping the rewards of doing it and mastering the process.
This was a great position to be in so early into the process. Almost from day 1 I was keen to do it and I’m hoping that with a positive mindset I will be able to continue.
What Has the First Week Been Like?
The first week has been surprisingly good and it’s quickly become part of my routine, and importantly a routine that I’m happy with. It’s not much of a disruption to and being able to continue with my normal morning routine is a big bonus.
So What Have I learned in My First Week:
- When I was told it could take, for example, up to an hour to complete, I presumed that hour was just sitting there waiting for the water to go in, and come back out. It transpired that the time it takes involves the setup of the equipment, the irrigation process and the cleaning up.
- The first few irrigations took around 35 minutes from start to finish. The last irrigation took under 20 minutes although even though all the liquid had left my bowel, I still kept the sleeve on for a bit longer just in case.
- During the irrigation process you can continue your morning routine which is effectively reducing the time doing the actual irrigation.
- I’m still mastering how much fluid my bowel can take on any given day. After the first irrigation I’ve gone for 1 litre and it seems to take it most times but sometimes it can be less. All part of the learning process.
- My body is still reacting to having a large volume of fluid being introduced so physically I”m feeling a bit different during the process.
- There can be accidents in the early days, such as being distracted and not keeping an eye on the water that starts to come out after it’s all gone in. Thankfully I’ve been prepared for any surprise overflows from the irrigation sleeve.
- It smells a bit different! It’s a bit weird, it smells like the output from a colostomy and regular poop, but maybe it smells more like the output from an ileostomy. Or maybe it’s the addition of fluid.
- I’m finding that I’m still getting wind throughout the day, and perhaps a bit more than usual. I’m not sure if this is part of the irrigation process or something else.
So What’s Next?
Right now, I can’t see any reason why I won’t continue to irrigate. It’s something that’s proving to be easy to do and isn’t very disruptive. I’m only basing this on a week of doing it so things may change based on scenarios I encounter but I’m confident that things will go well and any challenges I encounter will be overcome.
I have a feeling that when I start getting back to normality and starting to run, and run the distances that I enjoyed tackling, the irrigation will be a huge benefit. At any distance the running should be a dream as I can rock up to race with an empty bowel knowing that I don’t have to worry about taking a number two before, during or after the race!
I’m quite surprised, and relieved, about how the irrigation has been integrated into my daily routine and unless it starts to disagree with me, I can’t see me stopping doing it.